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Cameras- What to buy

April 10, 2019

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Do you want to know one of the questions that I get asked the most?  What kind of camera should I buy?  There are so many good choices out there and people have a hard time even knowing where to start.  So I thought I would put together a little bit of information about cameras to help people get started.

Where to Begin.

There are so many great cameras out there.  Nikon and Canon are the 2 biggest and most well known camera companies.  They are both wonderful companies and their equipment is similar.  Some people say that Canon cameras are a bit brighter and more airy with more muted colors.  Nikon tends to be more colorful, sharp and has a better low light capability (meaning can take better pictures in darker situations).  Either company is good and there are pros and cons for each.  I use a Nikon because that is what my mentor used and therefore we could share lenses which was/is super helpful.  I feel like many of the big name photographers (at least that I follow and like) are Canon users.  If you are really serious about photography then I suggest you go to Wolf Camera and hold, touch and inspect each brand and choose for yourself.  I personally love my Nikon gear and it works well for me!  I shoot with a Nikon D810 and mostly Nikon/Nikkor lenses (also Simga and Tamaron lenses)

Mirrorless.

Another option is that you can get a mirrorless camera.  A mirrorless camera lacks the mirror to bounce light into your image.  A DSLR works just like an original camera in that it bounces light off of the mirror onto the sensor and captures the image.  With a mirrorless camera the light passes right through the lens and into the sensor making the camera lighter and less bulky.  It is kind of confusing but essentially your old point and shoot camera (or your phone camera) is mirrorless so this isn’t a new concept.  In the past mirrorless cameras were not as high of quality and you couldn’t get as good of an image using a point and shoot.  However, technology has advanced greatly and now you can get a mirrorless camera with detachable lenses just like a DSLR.  The quality is amazing and they are a great option.  Nikon and Canon are now making SUPER expensive mirrorless cameras and the market is changing.  The beginner level Nikon is the Z50 and is a good starting price point.

Beginner Cameras.

If you are just a photography enthusiast or want to take pictures of your kids and their events, then I would recommend the Nikon d3400 or Nikon d3500.  It is often rated the highest for beginners and I have several people who have purchased it on my recommendation and been happy with it.  You can buy it with just the body or you can get a kit that comes with a lens.  It starts around $450.  If you want to go with Canon, I would recommend the Canon Rebel T6i or Canon T7i.  My sister had this entry level camera YEARS ago and it inspired me to get into photography.  It starts around $400.  However, on the list of “best beginner cameras” most of the lists have Nikon as the top 4 out of 5 spots.

The Lens Where the Money Is.

More so than having a great camera body is having a great lens!  I HIGHLY recommend anyone wanting to take better photos to get a fixed/prime lens.  These lenses are faster, the glass is better and they will give you that blurry background (bokeh) that makes your photos look professional.  My recommendation is to get a 50mm lens (usually a 1.8).  If you don’t know much about those numbers, that is okay!!!  Just trust me when I tell you that you can get pictures like this one using a 50mm lens.  I use my 50mm for most of my sessions.  It is my absolute favorite!!!  They are fairly inexpensive and they will take your pictures to the next level.  All of these pictures were taken with my 50mm lens.

You can get a Nikon/Nikkor 50mm 1.8 lens for just over $100 (or you can get a knock off version for $75).  Other lenses that I have are 85mm (great blurry background and I use it mostly for senior pictures), the 35mm (a far away lens that is great for landscapes, architecture and far away shots….I also use this a lot in birth photography when the room is small but this is my least used lens), and a 105/macro lens (I use this for Macro shots, weddings and stock photography).  I also have a 24-105 zoom lens that I use for personal stuff and sports photography.

Professional Cameras.

There are two kinds of DSLR cameras.  A cropped frame and a full frame.  A cropped frame is more of a beginner (also cheaper) camera and has a smaller sensor.  Usually the pixel size is smaller and when you are using a lens on it, it changes the look of it.  Meaning if you are using a 50mm lens on a cropped sensor it is more like a 35mm view.  That might be confusing, but just know that it changes the “distance” of your lens.  If you have a full frame camera you have a full sensor.  This means it captures more, is higher quality and therefore costs a lot more.

I started my professional career with the cropped frame Nikon d7000.  It was brand new at the time and the lowlight and professional quality was unmatched at the time.  It was the first beginner level camera that acted more like a professional one.  My particular camera (and many of the others) had issues with back focusing meaning that it didn’t focus on what you told it to focus on and it would focus just behind it, making it frustrating.  I did have mine fixed under the warranty and it was much better.  Now they are on the d7500 and it is an amazing camera and a great start if you are really serious about photography.  It starts around $1100.

If you are really serious about photography, I would go with the Nikon d750.  This camera is a work horse and been around for years.  It is tried and true and many of the professionals that I know use this camera.  It starts at $1500.  The next step up is the Nikon d850 starting at $3200 and then the big daddy is Nikon D5 starting at a whopping $6500!  So there is a huge price range.  I noticed a HUGE difference in the quality of my photos when I switched from the cropped frame to the full frame so if you are really thinking about photography as a career, you might want to save up a bit more and spend the extra $300 for the full frame d750.

If you are a Canon lover, most of the photographers that I know use the Canon Mark iv which starts around $3000.  Sorry that I don’t know more about Canon products!!!

It isn’t just about the camera.

My #1 piece of advice about buying a camera…….learn how to use it.  You could have the most amazing camera, but if you don’t know how to use it then it isn’t going to be any good.  Read the manuel or better yet, take a class.  The camera is only as good as the person using it.  The first class I ever took on photography the instructor said to me “you are smarter than your camera” and she was right.  Every so often I switch my camera to auto (or program on my camera as I don’t have an auto setting) when I am lazy or when I am trying to take a quick shot.  Almost every time I look at the picture and sigh and then switch back to manuel and adjust the settings to make the picture look better.

Practice, Practice, Practice!

You will only get better with your camera if you are practicing.  Want to know how I have advanced in my photography.  #1 I have invested in education and #2 I have practiced A LOT!  I do over 100 sessions a year (and have for the last 5 years) and I take pictures of my own family (although not nearly as many as I should).  I don’t want to even look at the shutter count on my camera because I am sure it is WAY more than it should be and that I probably need a new camera.  But in using my camera several times a week I have gotten very comfortable with the settings.  A good way to start is to leave your camera out on the counter so you see it and therefore pick it up often.  You could also leave it in your car (although that can be risky) so you have access to it often when you see a pretty sunset or a fun sign along the road.

Wanna Learn More?

I am going to be doing some classes this summer so if you are thinking about buying a camera (or you already own one), sign up for a class!  I am going to be doing an introductory class, an advanced class, a teen class and a month long online class (with weekly lessons done online).  Let me know if you want to get on my mailing list and get more information.  Click here to get on my mailing list.

I hope that you all invest in a nicer camera and don’t just use your phone for all of your pictures.  And if you do use your phone…..BACK IT UP!!!  Don’t lose your precious memories.

I don’t pretend to know everything about cameras or photography.  In fact I had to do a fair amount of research in order to get all of this information!  If you have any questions or suggestions I would love to hear them!  I would also love to hear any other questions you might have about lighting, photography, business or otherwise.  I am going to be doing a weekly “educational” blog and I would love to hear what you want to learn about.  Email me at lisa@photolilo.com with your questions!

Cameras- What to buy

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